If you've realized that a person wrote this article, you may also realize that that person is a writer. But every writer is different, a side effect of different personalities and amounts of experience. My personality has shaped what writing means to me over the years, and in turn, my writing experience has changed my personality. What are some of the things that writing has changed for me, and how can reading this article affect the way you view your art, whatever it may be? Well, let's take a look.
There is more than one part of my life. Consider a superhero: if Clark Kent has a bad day at the office, he still has his double-life as Superman to look forward to, or vice versa. Since my two worlds are unrelated, it's unlikely that both could be miserable at the same time. Bad test grade? At least my writing's going well. Writer's block? At least my GPA is a 4.0. This helps especially when your home and school lives aren't very separate: a parent breathing down your back from a bad test grade would be all-consuming for someone who only ever thinks of school and family. But if you add a third or fourth element to the mix, suddenly you have a back-up. What if I never achieve my dream of being a famous scientist? At least I'll have my writing.
2. How to deal with insecurity.
The polar opposite of everything I just explained, yet still somehow it applies. I learned an important life lesson from being a writer: everyone is insecure.
Like super insecure.
I have never heard of an author who wasn't insecure, nor a genius who didn't have Impostor's Syndrome. Almost every day I write, I get the nagging feeling that what I'm putting out is awful. But then I hear the exact same thing from famous writers and writers in my writers' group alike, yet all their work is amazing!
As a writer, you learn that there is a mental barrier between you and your readers. Your goal is to break down that barrier as much as possible so that your minds can briefly synchronize. But that barrier will never be entirely gone; every word and every connotation holds different meaning for different people, so something that seems obvious and boring to me seems outlandish and fantastic to a reader. How would the concept of gravity blow your mind if you'd never heard of it? Yet, knowing about gravity, you find explaining the concept elementary. As a writer, you normally know what's about to happen in your piece, but your reader doesn't, and neither does the future you. I occasionally look back at my old writings and say, "Wow, I was such a better writer back then!" My past writing seems so much better because now I'm reading my own writing from a reader's perspective: everything is a surprise.
Let's face it: your English teacher probably sucked at this. My school system focused way too much on, "Why did Mark Twain say the sky was blue? Is it a metaphor? Oh, of course it is," and way too little on the difference between who and whom. Most kids at my school learned grammar from foreign language classes, since in there you have to learn about participles, infinitives and singular vs. plural pronouns (soon to come: an article on all the grammatical mistakes you've made due to being a native English speaker). I learned a fair portion of things from my foreign language classes, but all the rest was from reading Strunk and White to try and get a better grasp on my writing.
Oddly, something I did not gain from writing: proper spelling. But as long as I have autocorrect, I'm not complaining.
4. Foreign languages.
Constantly writing gives me an acute control over the English language. I can instantly spot grammatical mistakes in someone's speech and I can distinguish the right words to use in a speech based on connotation alone. I pay close attention to which syllables or words in a sentence are stressed and why. All of this makes it far easier to transition into other languages. Growing up speaking a language doesn't allow for any introspection as to why we say what we do... unless you're a writer. Suddenly, you begin to question everything you say and write. If you aren't a writer, then your second language really is just that: a second language. Being a writer gives you a better understanding of the English language, a deeper insight that few naive speakers get. By the time you take your first Spanish class, you've already learned a language, as opposed to just unconsciously absorbing one over the years.
5. A silver lining.
I'm glad that I've seen this one several times on Fresh U: if you get a bad roommate, at least it gives you great writing material!
That's the beauty of having some form of creative expression: you get stronger and more unique with every challenge you face in life. Because of writing, I would never wish away any of the bad things that have ever happened to me, because suddenly they become integral and interesting stories to tell. My left foot clicks from a break I got in Taekwondo, so now I think of it as Harry Potter's scar. One of my professors chronically assigns us the wrong homework. What an eccentric and absent-minded genius. Neither is very pleasant to experience IRL, but they become aspects of the story that is me.
Bad roommate? Great source material! Parents shot in an alleyway after the theater? Well, now you're qualified to write Batman.
Writer's block - it's real. There are two different types, which stem from a lack of two different things: inspiration and motivation. Over the years, I've learned how to work on large projects, such as novels, over the course of hundreds of days. I've learned how to motivate myself and I've learned how to seek out ideas when I need to. Some days, you just don't want to write. Some days, you just can't think of what to write. Mastering how to deal with these two problems has gotten me far in life, both academically and with personal projects.
In my opinion: everyone should have an art (in my case, writing). By art, I mean a form of creative expression: both creative and expressive.
7. Creative: deeper insight into pretty much everything.
I pay attention in history class because crazy historical emperors are great templates for characters. I pay attention in physics class because it gives me creative ideas for sci-fi worlds. I pay attention to annoying people because I want to know how to write a character that obnoxious. My position as a writer motivates me to learn everything about the world: from how Amazonian hunter-gatherers conduct marriage rituals to the fact that there are no verb conjugations in Mandarin. I'll watch some of Trump's speeches just to see how the media would realistically react to it, and likewise I'll say, "Hillary's actually pretty good," to Bernie supporters just to gauge their reactions. Everything and anything is fair game.
The "creative" part of creative expression is what allows you to obtain knowledge. But the "expressive" half allows you to really put it to use.
8. Expression: a tool to change the world.
Why are humans compelled to put pretty colors on a canvas, or play the exact same notes in the same order repeatedly? Because we are capable of seeing those things as meaningful: just like words, they are ways of communicating, of expressing your inner thoughts. No one else in the world can see, hear or touch your thoughts, so you have to find a medium to communicate through. People often say that music is the universal language or that art can change the world, and both of those are true. Language is limited, so we find other ways to supplement it: body language, sketches, floral arrangements, piano, actions, dance, etc.
Writing is something that supplements spoken language, and storytelling is something that supplements reality. Allegories, metaphors and myths have been used to convey ideals, opinions and facts since the beginning of time. Some people doubt that fiction can help us understand reality, and to them all I have to say is, "If fiction can't help us understand reality, then why has every culture in the history of ever done so?" Just look at the model of the mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell) in your textbook. That, my friend, is a work of fiction. It's not a picture. It's not even an accurate representation of what a mitochondrion looks like. In reality, there would be thousands of molecules of ATP spewing out every nanosecond, it wouldn't be cut in half so you could see the inside, and there would be proteins sticking out of it at odd angles.
I'm not selling reality short. But, as a future scientist, I'll only be able to talk scientifically with other scientists. So in order to convey science to other people who haven't spent ten years living and breathing biochem, I'll have to get creative. Metaphors, storytelling, animation, even music — all of these things are meant to convey information in unique ways, often because turning to someone and making noises with your mouth won't cut it.
Art isn't just something you do: it's a state of mind and a mental exercise. It challenges you to think about conveying information in different ways. If you're a writer, I hope you enjoyed reading this article. If you're not, I hope that this inspired you, or helps you understand a little bit more about what it means to have a creative art.
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